ALBERTA

Wildfires Threaten Alberta Community

07/03/2015 01:23 EDT | Updated 07/03/2016 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - Hundreds more residents in northern Alberta have been put on evacuation alert due to wildfires.

Four hundred people who live in South Tallcree First Nation were on evacuation notice Friday, ready to leave if necessary, said Scott Long, executive director of operations for Alberta'sEmergency Management Agency.

About 200 people from the North Tallcree First Nation left their homes on Thursday when fires came to within five kilometres of the community.

Bulldozers spent Thursday night building fire guards around the community, Long said Friday.

Sprinkler systems also have been installed on all homes and critical infrastructure in the community, and so far, no buildings have burned, he added.

"So far, all the efforts of all the men and women on the ground are paying off as well as the containment measures," he said.

A complex of eight fires around the North Tallcree First Nation have burned through 32 square kilometres of land.

The fires were between four and five kilometres west of the community on Friday.

"The wind is coming from the west to the east so the fire itself is moving in the direction of the community," Long said.

Another 80 people in Meander River — the elderly, the infirm and small children — have left their community due to heavy smoke from the fires. That community is also on evacuatin alert.

Highway 88, the main road into the region, was closed south of South Tallcree First Nation, and the road is closed to North Tallcree, Long said, because of threatening flames.

An early spring and sustained hot, dry conditions have pushed the threat of wildfires in forested areas to extreme levels, Long said.

There were 129 wildfires burning in the province, including 51 that are out of control, as of Friday.

Alberta has more than 1,600 firefighters on duty and is calling in another 150 from other provinces in the next few days.

Since April 1, there have been 1,260 wildfires in Alberta that have scorched 2,500 square kilometres. Last year, there were 725 wildfires and the five-year average is 785.

In the High Level area alone, there were 42 wildfires, with 26 out of control, and 500 firefighters trying to put them out.

North Tallcree First Nation is 600 kilometres north of Edmonton.

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